Though doctors call off strike, responsibility yet to be fixed

May 24, 2019

PESHAWAR: After paralysing health services for eight days in all the public sector hospitals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the doctors Tuesday night finally called off their protest after talks with the...

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PESHAWAR: After paralysing health services for eight days in all the public sector hospitals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the doctors Tuesday night finally called off their protest after talks with the government.

The question worth asking is as to who is responsible for the suffering caused to the patients.

As many as 96,000-plus patients were denied health services in the three tertiary care hospitals of the provincial capital alone.

The doctors on May 14 launched province-wide strike and withdrew all services, except limited emergency cover, as a protest over a clash between Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan and Assistant Professor Dr Ziauddin Afridi in the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH).

It was stated to be the longest ever protest of the doctors as they kept all the hospitals closed.

The doctors warned they would continue the protest till removal of Dr Nausherwan Burki and Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah.

They also demanded scrapping the MTI Act 2015 and proposed laws such as District Health Authority (DHA) and Regional Health Authority (RHA).

The government didn’t accept any of these demands, though it was decided to constitute two separate committees to investigate complaints of the doctors.

The patients and their attendants were very critical of the doctors but the way the government handled this sensitive issue was widely criticised.

“I am a doctor as well but my simple question from both, my doctor community and the government, is who will compensate those poor patients who terribly suffered during the past eight days when the doctors suspended services across the province,” stated a senior faculty member of Lady Reading Hospital (LRH).

Pleading anonymity, he said he had personally heard patients and their frustrated attendants cursing the doctors and the government for their miseries.

This correspondent collected data of the three hospitals in Peshawar during the days of the strike.

According to official sources, in KTH alone where the issue emerged on May 14 more than 24,000 patients were denied services in the suspended OPDs.

The hospital daily receives 3,000 to 4,000 patients and a similar number of patients are brought to the emergency department.

The Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) has almost similar data. The Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) - being the largest hospital of the province- daily receives 5,000-6,000 patients in its OPDs.

Almost the same number of patients is taken to the Accident and Emergency Department (A&ED) of the hospital.

Both in KTH and HMC, 250-300 patients are daily admitted and around 300 surgical procedures are undertaken every day.

In LRH, according to official sources, around 600-plus patients are admitted and operated daily.

“Overall in these eight days, we deprived more than 96,000 patients, majority of them very poor people, of their basic right of access to health services. And because of these questions, I am not liked by my people,” said the faculty member.

The sources said in the three tertiary care hospitals of Peshawar - LRH, KTH and HMC- around 9,600 surgical procedures were postponed in eight days due to strike of the doctors.

“For procedures, patients are given three and four months. Now the question is who will compensate those patients? Obviously, the patients will need to wait for a longer period due to this backlog,” a paediatric surgeon in KTH told The News.

Patients and their attendants criticised the government for its criminal negligence.

“I don’t understand why the government didn’t invite the protesting doctors for talks earlier when the poor patients continued to suffer. And what did the doctors achieve from this protest except curses of the patients,” one senior faculty member told The News in KTH.

He said the issue of Dr Ziauddin Afridi was not new, saying it was mishandled, though he himself aggravated it due to his attitude.

Now that the government constituted committees to investigate the issue that emerged after clash between the minister and the surgeon, the committee needs to know who had informed Dr Ziauddin Afridi about the policy board meeting in KTH when he along with a few of his supporters was standing at the main entrance of the hospital since 10:30am on May 14.

Also, in order to avoid such mishaps in future, the government should hold the BoG accountable for its failures in preventing the clash and its aftermath.

“Dr Ziauddin was there for a few hours and exchanged harsh words with BoG members. What did the hospital administration do to avoid further tension in the hospital where Dr Nausherwan Burki was supposed to come?” a faculty member questioned.

Dr Burki was taken to the hospital through an alternative route to prevent any mishap.

However, Dr Ziauddin soon came to know about Dr Burki’s arrival in the hospital.

Before the policy board meeting, Dr Ziauddin entered the conference room where Dr Burki heard him. It seemed Dr Ziauddin was not satisfied with Dr Burki.

And after the policy meeting was over, the board members then started a meeting with officials of KTH, KMC and KCD when Dr Ziauddin again entered the conference room, this time in aggressive mood and carrying eggs in a bag. He looked towards Dr Burki and started throwing eggs towards him.

“First, why was the policy board meeting held in the small conference room of KTH? And then what security measures were taken for security of Dr Burki and other officials when everybody knew that Dr Ziauddin would show some reaction,” said an official of the hospital.

Also, he said the question is who among administrative heads in the meeting informed Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah about the mishap with Dr Burki.

And then besides the hospital security staff, headed by a retired colonel, police led by a DSP were also present in the hospital premises. And the committee is supposed to investigate why the KTH administration didn’t utilise them to take Dr Ziauddin in protective custody.

The phone call reportedly provoked Dr Hisham and he within no time was in KTH along with his security guards.

Dr Ziauddin and his supporters alleged that Dr Hisham’s intentions were not good, and said he had brought private armed men along with him to the hospital to seek revenge.

The question is whether or not Dr Hisham had taken same armed men along with him when he visited HMC and LRH.

Also, now when Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has ordered two inquiry committees, it is supposed to check footage of the CCTV cameras of the KTH as some of the people reportedly frequently visited the administration block and allegedly passed on information to Dr Ziauddin, then sitting in his office in the surgical department.

Also, many faculty members wanted to know as to who informed Dr Ziauddin about arrival of the health minister in KTH.

And when Dr Hisham came to the hospital and was about leave after having a meeting with the KTH administration, who took him and his guards via the distant corridor of surgical department instead of routine exit to avoid mishap between the minister and the charged surgeon.

If there is a fair trial of this issue, the committee needs to investigate the BoG members and their pathetic role in poorly administering the three institutions- KTH, KMC and KCD.

“Dr Ziauddin has been crying for the last three months and appeared before the BoG during this time. Why the BoG didn’t resolve his issue? Same is the issue of other doctors including Dr Sheema Khan, Dr Idrees and others but why the BoG failed to solve their problems,” said a consultant in KTH.

He said the KTH administration failed to make any effort to avoid mishap, first between Dr Burki and Dr Ziauddin and then Dr Hisham and Dr Ziauddin.

And when the doctors closed the hospital for eight days, they didn’t make any sincere effort to ensure presence of the doctors in OPDs. Even those recruited under the MTI Act 2015 were not able to come to their duty during these days of strike.

Majority of the doctors including those holding key positions were seen operating on patients in private clinics late into the night during this period.

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